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Great Robot Race, The

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 7-8)
To experience hands-on learning about robotic vehicles.


  • NOVA's "The Great Robot Race" Web site
  • LEGO® elements
  • RCX brick (a programmable microcomputer by LEGO Mindstorms® that students can program using a computer and the ROBOLAB® software)
  • 9-volt motors
  • light sensors
  • touch sensors
  • wheels
  • connection wires


  1. This activity is sort of a small-scale model version of the DARPA challenge. The robotic cars that students build have light, touch, and/or rotation sensors to "sense" the environment which is made out of LEGO parts and other materials (see photo of obstacle course). There is a limitation on the size of the robotic car, but students make their own decisions on what sensors they want to use.

  2. Have students do a short research report about how robots are used today. Have them share information from their reports with the class as a discussion.

  3. Next, have students view video clips on the computer from the Meet the Teams feature. Randomly assign each student two teams to write a summary about (have each student pick from a pool of team names written on separate slips of paper and put in box made of LEGO bricks).

  4. Before viewing the program, provide students with a guide sheet of questions about the program to be discussed after viewing.

  5. Prior to building of the robotic cars, review the LEGO Mindstorms Robolab programming techniques that will instruct the robot how to go forward, backward, turn, and use input sensors. Show students the obstacle course their robotic cars will be running. Have students form teams of three and select a name for their team.

  6. Have half of the teams build while the others view the video and and write responses to the video clips from the Video Extras feature, and What Robots See slide show.

  7. When all the robotic cars are ready, everyone is called to competition. The winning car is determined by how far the car completes the course and time.

A rubric is used to evaluate the students' project as a whole. It includes the quality of the research report, the two summaries of the Meet the Team video, robotic car design, writing a Robolab program for their car, and the success of their robotic car on the obstacle course.

Classroom Tips
If you have limited workspace or computers, rotate the teams to work on their robots, and viewing of the videos and research.

Sent in by
Veryl Greene
MS 217Q
Jamaica, NY

Teacher's Guide
Great Robot Race, The